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John Farrell on Salk & Holley: Cutter has been Jon Lester’s biggest problem; Andrew Bailey closing ‘would be ideal’

07.10.13 at 3:36 pm ET
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Speaking during his weekly appearance on the Salk & Holley show, Red Sox manager John Farrell cited Jon Lester‘€™s cutter as perhaps the primary cause for the starter’€™s struggles.

It’€™s analysis that is supported by opponents’€™ success against the pitch. According to BrooksBaseball.net, batters are hitting .299 against the pitch, whereas they managed just .196 (2010) and .211 (‘€™11) clips vs. Lester’€™s cutter in recent years.

‘€œOne brief description where he’€™s been getting hurt has been with his cutter,’€ Farrell noted. ‘€œIt doesn’€™t have the same power, the same lateness. We’€™ve tried different things to regain that. But along the way his changeup has become much-improved. We still see good power to his fastball. The other night he’€™s 93-94 consistently. What we’€™re seeing at times is some inconsistent control within the strike zone. Not so much wildness. There have been more inconsistencies within the strike zone which have come back to bite him a little bit, particularly with two strikes. And a lot of times the two-strike pitch has been that cutter. We continue to narrow it down.

‘€œWe continue to address physical and fundamental things that are there. That’€™s the one thing we look at right now. That pitch doesn’€™t have the same effectiveness he’€™s been known for the majority of his career.’€

Lester is coming off a five-inning outing in which he surrendered five runs, boosting his ERA to 4.60 and batting average against to .261. In the lefty’€™s last 10 outings, he has managed a 6.49 ERA.

Farrell didn’€™t discount Lester’€™s workload ‘€“ having thrown the fourth-most pitches in the majors this season ‘€“ saying ‘€œI don’€™t think there’€™s anyway you can set that aside.’€ But the manager still maintained that an improved cutter would most likely return the pitcher to the success he experienced earlier in the season.

‘€œYou can only work on it so much,’€ Farrell said of the pitch. ‘€œYou begin to talk about it and you begin to visualize it, and use different techniques that allow to put yourself in that position even if you’€™re not out in the bullpen working on it. Physically you need those days of rest in between starts. There’€™s video review you begin to go back and break down and pinpoint some things. And in this case, with his cutter, it becomes more of a starting point within the strike zone.

‘€œFor example, if the catcher’€™s mask was the starting point for his cutter, which had later action, a little bit more tilt to it, not it might not have that same break. It’€™s a matter of adjusting the starting point rather than going back to the same point he’€™s been accustomed for a long period of time. It can also mean limiting the exposure to that pitch. Like I said, his changeup has become almost like a split type of action. He’€™s been getting a lot of swing and miss and has become a put-away pitch for him. This isn’€™t just about sheer velocity, because the velocity is still there. It’€™s about the action to that secondary pitch.’€

– When asked about the possibility of Andrew Bailey returning to the closers role, Farrell said, ‘€œThat would be ideal,’€ going on to explain the team’€™s need for Koji Uehara’€™s success against both righties and lefties in a set-up role.

After pitching 1 2/3 innings of one-hit ball Tuesday night, Bailey has gone three straight outings in which he hasn’€™t allowed a run.

‘€œKoji has done such a very good job regardless of the role we’€™ve pitched him in,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œBut to have his versatility to go up against righties and lefties with equal efficiency ‘€¦ that set-up guy, that eighth-inning guy, when you can use him in the seventh inning because you’€™re in the meat of the order, it just adds a completely different dynamic to your bullpen. But if it stays the way it is, and Andrew Bailey becomes that guy you can use in those spots, which he’€™s getting back to that ‘€¦ let’€™s face it, given the injuries we’€™ve recently gone through, we need as many late-inning relievers as we can possibly get.’€

– Farrell noted that Clay Buchholz was scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday, and another on Friday before potentially making a rehab start Sunday.

As for who might get the Red Sox’€™ start Sunday, the manager said that Allen Webster is currently slotted into that outing, although that could change.

Read More: Andrew Bailey, Clay Buchholz, John Farrell, Jon Lester
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